June 2007

Good Morning, Philadelphia

Monday, June 11, 2007

Road Trip

I am with the team in Philly for the next two days (flying home after the game tomorrow night), and I received a few strange looks on the plane yesterday afternoon (like, "what are you doing here?")

I travelled with the team on almost every trip from 1991 to about 1998 or 1999, so it didn’t seem strange to me.

I haven’t seen the new ballpark here and wanted to scout it out a bit.  I can say hello to Aaron Rowand and Freddy and then head back to Chicago.

Last night, Ed Farmer, Herm Schneider, Chris Singleton and I eschewed the final Sopranos episode (my wife said it was very ordinary) and headed out to a late dinner at Capitol Grille.  AJ, his wife, Jim Thome, JD, John Danks and Toby Hall were also at a table.

Singy was star-struck by Patty LaBelle, who dined next to us.  Herm leaned over and said to Patty, "he wants to meet you," pointing to Chris.

Chris and Ed walked over to say hello and talked to the stage and screen star, who was very polite and friendly.

Farmio entertained us, telling stories about his first spring training as a rookie with the Indians in Tucson, Arizona.  I can’t imagine a big league club using the visiting "clubhouse" at Hi Corbett for six weeks, but they did.

It seems Farmio’s pitching coach hated him and the two butted heads (can you imagine that?)  Great stories all around.

Marinanne Rowand came in and was waiting to meet Aaron for dinner.  The Phillies team plane from KC was later given the long game, but he was just a few minutes behind us when we left.  I’ll see him today at the ballpark.

Then, I returned to the hotel to see the end of the Braves game, which they won in interesting fashion.

All-in-all, a good evening.

If you wonder what we do on the road, it usually amounts to this (at least for the PR guys):

-field calls from Philly media looking to talk to Jim Thome about his return

-Answer emails via my blackberry

-Talk to office several times

-Catch up on some sleep and some work-related reading

-Have two conference calls, one with consultants we use and the other a weekly staff meeting in Chicago

-Workout (I am proud to say that I’ve lost 14 pounds since spring training but unfortunately, will still need that high bllod pressure medicine … is it the job or genetics?)

-Head to the ballpark (later today than usual for me.  Usually, it’s by 3:30.  Tonight around 5:30 because of conference calls).  Pat O’Connell is on the trip to handle the daily media requests and duties.

-Check in with Ozzie and the clubhouse

-Take in the game (I am going to sit in the stands for this one)

-Bus back to the hotel

-Answer any late-night emails/calls

-To bed

Tough life …

Saturday Pregame

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Today’s Lineup

Mack, LF; Iguchi, 2B; Thome, DH; PK, 1B; AJ, C; Dye, RF; Uribe, SS; Terrero, CF; Fields, 3B.  Garland pitching.

World Series Rematch

Friday, June 8, 2007

Tonight’s Lineup

Owens, CF; Iguchi, 2b: Thome, DH; PK, 1B; AJ, C; Fields, 3B; Mack, LF; Terrero, RF; Uribe, SS.  Danks pitching.

Dye needs another day for his knee.

Thoughts

The Astros just have to love coming back here to play us.  It would really stink.

Tonight marks the return of El Caballo to U.S. Cellular Field.  It was good to see Carlos.  Let’s hope he is quiet this weekend.

The Sox and Astros have shared struggles recently.

Lance Berkman is appealing his suspension and is hitting third in the Houston lineup today.

Windy City Sox Fans

I went along with Ozzie to the Windy City Sox Fans luncheon at Polo Cafe this afternoon (if you haven’t eaten at Polo Cafe, you definitely need to.  It is located at Morgan and 33rd on the left-hande side).

Ozzie signed autographs for the crowd and then did a Q & A session with WSCR’s Chris Rongey.

Among the best of his lines …

"Ozzie ball … remember that?" as Ozzie waved his hand in the air indicating how many years it’s been since we saw it.

He recounted his conversation with JD during last night’s game.

"You guys are boring," Guillen said to his right fielder with a chuckle.

"Remember, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish," Guillen quoted his right fielder as saying.

"We’ll," Ozzie answered.  "Can you guys start tomorrow?"

On last night’s game …

"We played really well for seven innings and played like Fantasy Camp for two."

On his team’s late inning struggles …

"I am going to call Bud Selig and ask if the White Sox can play the seventh, skip the eighth and just play the ninth."

On Mark Buehrle’s pursuit of 100 wins …

"My wife and I drank that champagne (Guillen had been saving to celebrate) the other night," Guillen said joking.  "I had been saving it, but I told her, let’s drink it, he might not win another.

"Now that I drank it, he’ll win No. 100.

"He should have won six of his last seven starts.  Marks one of my favorite players on and off the field.  He’s special, real special.  He just wants to win for the team, not himself, the team."

On the Braves’ Class AA manager who was recently ejected for a theatrical display during a game …

"I called Bobby Cox to give him some strategy on the Cubs.  I told him to hurry up and get ejected because I had a box of cigars to send him when he broke the record.

"I asked him if he could picture himself laying on the ground like that.  He said, ‘yes, but who would pick me up afterward?’"

On what he likes best and worst about being a major league manager …

"What I like best is the game, the 2 1/2 to 3 hours of competition each night.  What I hate most is the other 21 hours."

On using Bobby Jenks more …

"I can’t ask Bobby to take care of someone else’s responsibility and risk his being injured or not being available to us down the road."

On blame for the team’s performance to date …

"Who do you blame, the player making $15 million or the coach making $80,000?  We’ve got the same ballclub as the one that won in 2005.  We’ve just not performed.  It’s always the coaches and managers who get blamed when the players don’t do their jobs.  That just the way it is," he said with a shrug.

On Joe Crede’s health …

"I really appreciate the effort for him to play through the pain in his back.  In the fifth inning of one game last week, he came up to me and said, ‘Ozzie, I don’t feel my legs.’

"Two days later he was back in the lineup."

To close the session, a fan told Ozzie:

"Ozzie, two years ago, you gave us the thrill of a lifetime.  Thank you for that."

Ozzie responded:

"My job is to get you another one.  I want you to feel proud to be a White Sox fan and I want to win again so that I can make $50 million a year."

Ba-dum-bum.

That’s all folks …

Thursday’s Lineup

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Tonight’s Lineup

Owens, CF; Iguchi, 2b: Thome, DH; Konerko, 1B; AJ, C; Fields, 3B; Mack, CF; Cintron, SS; Terrero, RF.  Contreras pitching.

Inside The Draft Room

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Getting Your Guy

The White Sox selected left-handed pitcher Aaron Poreda of the University of San Francisco with the 25th pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. (see our press release on whitesox.com for details).

Aaron was our guy, and the room was filled with excitement and congratulations after the pick.

Some random observations, comments and thoughts from inside the White Sox draft room …

… to set the stage, the room is rectangular with a large conference table that seats around 12.  On one wall are two boards.  The first has all of the players we are interested in drafting, arranged by likely round, position, etc.  The second board has the draft order of teams through the first five rounds.  As a player is selected, his little magnetic card is moved from one board to the other.

On the other wall are the rosters of 29 teams plus a depth-chart like list of our roster.  Anytime KW refers to his long-range roster plannning, he is referring to this chart and wall.  At one short end of the room is the door and a large flat-screen TV, while a smaller TV is up in the opposite corner.

Because today was televised by ESPN2, a tripod and camera sat in the corner, showing half of the room.

About 16 White Sox front office staff, scouts and player development folks filled the room, including KW, Rick Hahn, David Wilder and Duane Shaffer, our director of scouting.  Jerry Reinsdorf arrived for our first pick.

With 5 minutes between pick and not picking until 25, our afternoon was a case of waiting, watching TV, rooting for the right picks ahead of us and eating snacks:  twizzlers and beef jerky being the preference this year (nince combo, huh).

As our turn came closer, a buzz enveloped the room and the chatter picked up.  Ozzie Guillen and Don Cooper stopped by to lighten the mood.  Coop came in sweating. 

"What’s wrong, Coop," someone asked.

"I just finished my walk," he said.

"What, from the clubhouse," came the retort to laughs.

With each pick came a fist pump as we sat hoping no one ahead of us chose Aaron.

Then came our pick.

Andrew Pinter called Roland Hemond and Chet Lemon, our representatives at the draft in Orlando, with the name.  They handed it over to MLB and soon the Commissioner made the announcement.

Aaron is from the Bay Area and played at the University of San Francisco.  We selected him just before the A’s had the 26th pick.  I wonder if they would have chosen the lefty.  I guess we won’t be in Billy’s next book.  Maybe he’ll be in ours …

After the pick, KW and Shaffer went into Kenny’s office to call Aaron and I tagged along.  They reached him on his cell phone to congratulate him and welcome him to the White Sox.  It sounded like Aaron was at the biggest celebration party ever.  You could hardly hear him over the roar.

I hopped on the call and told Aaron we would arrange a conference call with media later in the day (5 pm actually), and then headed out to the dugout with Shaffer where he met the media to talk about Aaron.

One humorous aside from the day involved Draft Room Envy.

As ESPN2 showed the various draft rooms around baseball, the room reacted.  Everyone was laughing and joking comparing layouts, computers, televisions and accommodations.

Someone said, with a smart-aleck tone …

"Ours is the most unimpressive room we’ve seen today."

And no, he wasn’t talking about the people in the room.  Save it.

Thanks, Loyal Reader

So I’m sitting next to KW in the draft room and he starts reading my blog from the other day outloud off his cell phone.

"Oh, God," I say.  "Here we go."

The mocking continues and he hands the phone to Rick Hahn to read.

"I didn’t know you were a loyal reader," I countered.

"Is this off the record?" KW said.

No.

Wednesday Night

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Tonight’s Lineup

Owens, CF; Iguchi, 2B; Thome, DH; Dye, RF; AJ, C; PK, 1B; Mack, LF; Fields, 3B; Uribe, SS.  Vazquez pitching.

Rain showers wiped out batting practice but the weather looks great at game time.

Tomorrow is the draft, and I’ll try to blog from inside the "War Room."  We pick 25th in the first round and then not again until 89th due to all the sandwich picks between the first and second rounds.

Tuesday With The Yankes

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

About Last Night

Not pretty, but a win is a win the way we are going …

Tonight’s Lineup

Owens, CF; Iguchi, 2B; Thome, DH; Dye, RF; AJ, C; PK, 1B; Mack, LF; Uribe, SS; Cintron, 3B.  Buehrle pitching.

Belated Birthday Wishes

To Darin Erstad yesterday … I asked him how his ankle was feeling and he said better and better.  "When I heard and felt it pop, I thought that was it," Darin related.  "But it is just a high ankle sprain, so I’ll be all right."

Why I Love This Job

You know when you are having a bad day, week, month, season, year, (etc) there are those moments that bring a smile to your face and remind you why you love your job.  I had one of those today from about 2:30 until 4 pm.  Midway through it dawned on me … blog it.

So here it goes …

I was in Ozzie’s office with he and Joey around 2:30 pm.  Major League Baseball has an announcement tomorrow about Ozzie and a very neat program, and I needed to run it past Ozzie.  He was showering, shaving and getting ready for batting practice as we talked.  He read the release and quote from Commissioner Selig and laughed.  "This is good," he said.  (You’ll need to read it on our site around noon tomorrow, but the release will be typical Ozzie, the side some people rarely see or recognize).

Everyone headed outside for special batting practice.  The sun was shining … for a time … and I sat on the dugout bench (you know where Ozzie sits during games) with Rick Hahn, our assistant GM, and Ken Williams.  Those two had just gotten done with pre-draft (it’s Thursday) meetings.

Scotty Pods was taking BP as Ozzie threw.  Oney and Ozney Guillen also took turns in the cage.  Pods is very close, read that as verrrry close, to starting a rehab stint at Class AAA.  He needs to be able to play the outfield down there since Brian Anderson is currently a DH due to a sore arm.

Our coaches were out fielding and Don Cooper was running laps with a walkman on as balls dropped around him.

The Food Network logo was on the scoreboard (aside:  they are filming an episode of Dinner Impossible here tonight.  The star, Robert Irvine, a culinary master and Royal Marine, doesn’t know it yet but he is going to be brought to the ballpark, joined by sous chef Ron Kittle and will be charged with cooking a gourmet meal for 150 out of our center field concession stand.  You know we have the best food in baseball, tonight it will be gourmet quality).

Anyway, then a couple of amateur players took turns in the cage as Ozzie continued to throw.  One hit a couple of balls out to left.

"We need to hurry up," Greg Walker said.  "Roger (Bossard) said it’s going to rain in 20 minutes."

"You’re on the clock," Williams yelled to Bossard.  "You haven’t been right very often this year," he chided.

"Yeah, how about this," Guillen said.  "The GM calls the groundskeeper up this morning and says we want to use the field.  The groundskeeper tells him 8:30 in the morning.  The GM!  Who owns this field?  We need to ask the groundskeeper when we can play?"

"Hey, I need to take care of my field," Bossard countered to Guillen.  "I water four times a day.  One bad hop and you’d be all over me."

Meanwhile, AJ ventured out into our dugout.

"Who are these guys?" he asked about the amateurs.

"New catchers," came the answer.

"Hey," Williams yelled at his catcher, the old one, AJ.  "What’s with trying to hit all the home runs?  When we got you, I said you could win a batting title here … hit .300, 12 home runs.  Now, all of a sudden you are hitting .260 with 20 home runs.  Hit some singles to left and you might just win a batting title."

"What’s that on your finger?" AJ responded.  "Remember, we got that because I swung real hard and missed."

And he walked away.

At that point our pitching staff wandered out to take batting practice.

"Make sure you stretch," Guillen shouted to them.  "I don’t want anyone to get hurt."

"Contreras," Williams yelled at, well, Contreras.  "You’re the oldest guy out there, do something.  Bend.  Touch your toes.  Stretch.  Something."

Contreras just smiled at him.

"Don’t just smile, do something."

Kenny took a couple of phone calls from other GMs while we were sitting there. 

"Careful," I said, as media people walked past.

"What am I going to say?" KW fired back at me with a smile.  "If someone asks me if I’ve talked about a player, I’ll just say … is it a good player?  Because if it is, then I’ve talked about him."

Then it turned colder and dark and looked like rain.

I remind myself I do this for a living. 

Draft Day

Is Thursday afternoon at 1 pm CT.  We are going to have a camera in our draft room that ESPN can come to when it’s time for our pick.  Too bad there won’t be any audio, just video of the conference room.

"We are going to have to hide the snacks," someone wisecracked.

Good News

I think, at least for Maria Wegener it is.  Our Sunday game against the Cubs was not picked up by ESPN and will be played at 1:05 pm.  The game will be a Sox telecast on Comcast Sports Net Chicago and of course, WSCR.

I think we all benefit from that contest being a day game, especially Chicago’s Monday morning work production.

Homestand Opener

Monday, June 4, 2007

Rain

We are now expecting a first pitch around 6:20 pm due to the rain.  They do forecast a window that will allow us to get this game in …

Tonight’s Lineup

New Look

Owens, CF; Iguchi, 2B; Thome, DH; Dye, RF; AJ, C; PK, 1B; Mack, LF; Uribe, SS; Crede, 3B.  Garland pitching.

Pregame Thoughts

Ozzie reinforced that his new look lineup wasn’t meant to punish anyone, but to give Paulie and Joe a chance to relax and put together good at-bats.  Once they do that, then he’d move them back to their normal spots in the order.  "They just need to relax," Guillen said.

He also stressed that Aardsma’s and MacDougal’s demotion to Class AAA Charlotte was not punishment either. 

"They need to go down and work on things," he said, "and we can’t afford to have them work on their problems here with us."

GM Kenny Williams also met with the media before the game and said any blame should be his.

"I’m the one responsible.  I put the roster together."

He reinforced that he still believed in the talent and character of the players in the clubhouse.  When asked where he expected to be after the first two months of the season, he did not hesitate.  "First place."

Williams joked that he is always looking for "one more move" to make a team better.

"I even thought that after we won the World Series," he said.  But that one more move isn’t necessarily always a trade, he said, pointing to the acquisition and then promotion of Bobby Jenks in 2005.

But as for possible trading a veteran for prospects, Williams challenged, "that’s not what we’re about.  We’re trying to win."

Williams did say he is making the rounds, calling other big league clubs and admitted he made more out-going calls than there were incoming.  "But it’s always like that."

And when asked about Ozzie Guillen’s self-critical comments during the road trip, Williams said:

"He can’t fire himself.

"When Ozzie talks about managing, AJ talks about catching or Buehrle talks about pitching, then listen," he said laughing.  "Otherwise, ignore them."

Random Thoughts

Would you believe …

That before the game on May 8, our bullpen ERA was 3.29?  It’s 5.57 now.

That despite our struggles, we are only three games out of the wild card in the loss column …

The White Sox are in the beginning of a stretch where they play 34 consecutive games (from 5/31-7/5) against teams without a winning record … the Phillies, who are 28-28, are the only opponent during that stretch with at least a .500 record.

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